Monday, March 24, 2014

The Candy Bomber

Last week, I was made aware that the C-54 "Spirit of Freedom", a plane involved in the Berlin Airlift, would be close by and recreating a "candy bombing".

For those unfamiliar with the story, a brief history lesson... 
In 1948, the Soviet Union had blockaded Berlin (preventing food, coal, etc. to be delivered by train or car) in an effort to force them to accept Communism. The Western Allies worked around the blockade by delivering goods via plane to Western Berlin, the Allies' occupation zone, thus allowing them to survive and keep their freedom. During this time, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, a cargo pilot, was inspired with the idea to deliver candy to the children after meeting a group of them one day while touring the city.

One girl told him, "Almost every one of us here experienced the final battle for Berlin. After your bombers had killed some of our parents, brothers, and sisters, we thought nothing could be worse. But that was before the final battle. . . . [Then] we saw firsthand the Communist system [of the Soviets]." He goes onto explain that while the children were living on very little, "they could get by... as long as they could trust the Western Allies to stick by West Berlin," so that they would not lose the new freedoms they had heard their East Berlin relations lose- property, free speech, free elections, other civil liberties, or relocation to the Soviet Union.

(It's amazing that a child could have such insight, and sad to realize how much war must mature children).

I wanted our family to participate in this recreation, but I wanted it to be meaningful to my son. So, I bought "Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's 'Chocolate Pilot'" by Michael O. Tunnell, for him to read before the event. The book was written for older children, and did an excellent job of explaining the history simply, as well as Gail Halvorsen's experience. It is also chock full of pictures from the time, many of them from Gail Halvorsen's personal collection. (A shorter version of the story is available in the Oct. 2010 Friend and also in Tom Brokaw's "Christmas from Heaven"- which I have not read yet). Coincidently, my son had just finished studying World War II in school, so it was a timely follow up. I love it when the stars align like that!

It is one of my son's favorite books now, and did in fact make the "candy bombing" so much more relevant. We weren't just merely waiting for a plane to drop candy, but we were remembering the children that so eagerly awaited such a prized treat in post WWII Berlin. 

Keep your eyes out for the Spirit of Freedom in your area!

1 comment:

  1. Gina if you could drop me a line, I'm the photo editor for Aviation History magazine and I'd like to ask you a question about the photos. Thanks
    guy.aceto (at)